Introducing NEMO: CNF's Next Leap in Lab Management Evolution

Introducing NEMO: CNF's Next Leap in Lab Management Evolution
NEMO LIMS Interface

by Jaida Anekwe

CNF is excited to announce the latest update to our lab management system NEMO, the new lab-management system that addresses and mitigates the limitations from previous systems. The curation and implementation of NEMO was the result of years of alterations to previous LIMS’s to create an optimized system for managing lab operations.

The transition to NEMO marks a significant advancement in a long stream of updates to CNF’s lab management systems. Since its origins, lab management has come a long way from paper log sheets. The foundation was set in 1983 when CNF (then known as National Research and Resource for Submicron Structure, or NRRFSS) implemented their first VAX computer system. This system had billing, record charging, and transcription capabilities, but still required extensive manual labor, which had potential for extensive errors. The tedious billing process involved transcribing paper logs to charge records, which came with chasing errors from poor handwriting and typos.

In the late 1990s, CNF implemented CAC to address the shortcomings of the previous computers. With this system in place, facility users could only enable and disable tools they trained on via software, and all billings were automatically entered into the system. It also incorporated multiport relay boxes, controlled by serial lines, that were used to interlock a certain aspect of an instrument at the beginning and end of usage. However this system came with its own slew of safety concerns. It was simple for anyone to bypass the interlock for repair and maintenance reasons, compromising the health and safety of the tool. The challenge then became, ensuring that only authorized individuals could bypass the interlock. This was eventually mitigated by serial terminals being replaced by PCs and Macs and relay box locations being centralized. 

In 2008, CNF began its transition towards CORAL, spearheaded by Karlis Musa and Dave Botsch. CORAL is a java based software LIMS with better user interface and more comprehensive tool reservation tracking. At the time, the system was revolutionary, incorporating Java's "write once, run everywhere" approach that was remarkably convenient and held great promise. Notably, CORAL implemented more modernized hardware used for its interlock boxes. Instead of relying on basic commands transmitted through a serial line, CORAL utilized equipment controller computers equipped with specialized interface cards utilizing a bidirectional protocol to issue commands (and requests) to the tools’ corresponding interlock boxes. Another advantage of the CORAL interlock boxes is their ability to survive power outages, unlike their CAC counterparts that reset upon losing power.

NEMO marks the next step in CNF’s decades-long series of lab advancements. This LIMS was developed by Dr. Rob Ilic, former CNF staff member and current Manager of the Center of Nanoscale Science and Technology NanoFab at NIST. In pursuit of solutions for the limitations of CORAL, Dr. Ilic contracted an outside developer to create NEMO.

“NEMO continues the trend of being able to run anywhere as it is a web app running in one's web browser. NEMO is also able to make use of the existing CORAL interlock hardware  easing the transition, all while enabling the future deployment of more modern Internet of Things style interlock hardware.” -Dave Botsch, CNF Programmer

Additionally, NEMO is also a collaborative effort as it collects feedback and suggestions from its user base. NEMO’s implementation is an exciting step forward for CNF because it opens up the possibility to migrate to more modern interlock hardware options.